Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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DNR pitches new pike and walleye size limits

Associate Editor

St. Paul The state DNR Fisheries Division plans to push just one
policy item during this legislative session. But should it come to
pass, it would affect most anglers in the state.

The proposal would allow Minnesota anglers to keep just one
walleye over 20 inches and one northern pike over 24 inches both on
a daily basis beginning in 2004. Currently, just one walleye over
24 inches, and one pike over 30 inches may be kept daily. The bag
limit would remain the same for pike (3) and walleyes (6).

“We feel it’s desirable to maintain the quality of the fish we
have,” said Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries Division director. “We think
(the proposal) will have broad support from the angling
community.”

Payer said the proposal, which has yet to gain legislative
authors, will no doubt have foes, some of which will be pike
spearers.

The proposal comes on the heels of noticeable changes to angling
this spring, when panfish and crappie quantity limits are reduced
to 20 and 10, respectively, from 30 and 15 on May 10. The lake
trout limit drops from three to two. Also, special pike slot limits
will begin on 66 lakes and one stream when the game fish season
opens.

Payer said the proposed size limits for walleyes and pike came
about as an offshoot of Fisheries Roundtable discussions held
between the DNR and user groups two years ago.

In the early 90s, the walleye size limit was set at “one over
20” for one year, Payer said. The following year it was increased
to 24 inches. However, the 20-inch limit may increase the number of
quality fish in certain lakes, and spread out quality angling
opportunities to other anglers, he said.

Most anglers begin keeping fish at about 12 inches, according to
Payer.

While he calls walleyes “resilient” in maintaining numbers of
big fish, other species most often kept to eat are less so, Payer
said. Those species include both panfish and pike.

“In terms of regulations, and the ones for which we have the
hardest time maintaining quality, it’s the ones that are taken home
for food,” he said, adding that surveys indicate pike are usually
kept beginning at about 19 inches.

Payer said angler sentiment regarding walleye and pike size
limits were monitored while the agency conducted more than 10
public meetings on quantity limits of all species during the past
two years.

“We feel we’ve had enough public input to be on solid footing
(with this proposal),” he said.

The proposed length limit would not apply to boundary waters and
would likely increase the voluntary release of big fish, according
to the DNR.

However, one state angler said the statewide size limits for
northerns aren’t the answer for improved pike fishing. Dick
Sternberg, angling author and former DNR biologist, said he’s
“completely opposed” to such regulations.

“I’m not as concerned about the walleye (proposal) as I am about
the northern pike proposal,” he said. Making changes on a statewide
basis does little, biologically, to improve pike fishing, he added,
calling the size limit reduction “more of a feel-good, political”
measure.

“I think (the proposed regs) may do a good job on a few lakes,”
he said. “But what are we trying to do? There are hundreds of lakes
overrun with hammerhandle’ pike. We need to do more to control
hammerhandles.”

Sternberg said an overabundance of those pike not only eat small
walleyes, but also decimate perch, fish that control sunfish
numbers.

Regarding the walleye proposal, Sternberg said he believes it
could lead to more “sorting” of big fish, a practice that could
mean greater mortality of fish released. The DNR earlier this year
put on hold a proposal that would disallow angler culling (sorting)
of fish.

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